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Tampa neighborhood terrorized by arson

Arsonist set 86-year-old woman's house on fire
Posted at 6:23 PM, Jun 21, 2017

A string of arson has a Tampa neighborhood on edge.

Early Monday morning a home along West Palmetto Street went up in flames. Inside, was an 86-year-old woman, Delores Scott Johnson.

Just days before that, another two homes down from Johnson, where a car was engulfed in fire.

Investigators say neither were an accident.

So far, no one has been hurt. Including the older woman who sat down to talk with ABC Action News on Wednesday.

"I was in bed," Johnson said.

Delores Scott Johnson is a night-owl and was just getting in bed around midnight. Because of an accident and a surgery later, Johnson is in a wheel-chair, a caretaker was shutting the house up when she realized something was off.

"She had went to the door to make sure the house was secure when she heard the crackling sound," Johnson said.

That's when the two women noticed the home had caught fire. Johnson had no idea how as she isn't a smoker, no one at her home that day had been smoking and she didn't have any faulty wiring, to her knowledge.

"I didn't hear or see anything till she put me in the wheelchair and wheeled me to the front of the house," Johnson remembered.

In just minutes, despite firemen working as hard as they could, she watched her home of half a century burn.

"I could smell the smoke and hear the crackling," Johnson said she could see her entire home go up when they rounded the counter as she was wheeled out of her home she and her husband had purchased back in 1954. Since then, Johnson had raised four children and grandchildren in the home.

"It was like surreal to be across the street and see all of the fire engines and everything and say are they really here for my house?" Johnson said.

Neighbors say it's one thing to have one house fire, but having two arsons on one block is unsettling.

"It's really alarming and it's despicable. What they are doing, they are a coward," Albert Miller said, who lives just a few homes away from Johnson.

"Are they going to torch our house, our roof?" Miller questioned.

Only a few days prior to the Johnson's home catching fire, another fire had been set to a car two doors down from hers.

"They smashed the window and then they came back another time and set the car on fire," Miller explained.

Investigators do say both are being investigated as an arson, but won't say if the two are connected or not.
Neighbors though, are convinced they are.

"Somebody is vandalizing the neighborhood, why I don't know," Johnson said, from her son's living room.

Until her house is repaired, which it is currently being done, Johnson is staying with one of her sons. Which she says, isn't financially feasible for either of the family members for long.

Although Johnson has lost her home, her freedom for being on her own, and her physical health as of now, she says she is thankful for a few things.

"I would have been by myself," Johnson said. She explained that because of her accident a few months prior, she's had a care taker. Without the woman watching over her, she would have never known the fire had started.

"Whatever happens, I made it out a live," Johnson said.

Johnson did have insurance and is hoping to restore her home to it's original structure.